Notable never-isms

  • Never try to tell everything you know. It may take too short a time. —Norman Ford
  • Never trust a man when he’s in love, drunk, or running for office. —Shirley Maclaine
  • Never board 
a commercial 
aircraft if the 
pilot is wearing 
a tank top. —Dave Barry
  • Never be in a 
hurry to terminate a marriage. You 
may need this person to finish a sentence. —Erma Bombeck
  • Never argue with a doctor; he has inside information. —Bob Elliott and Ray Goulding
  • Never keep up with the Joneses. Drag them down to your level; it’s cheaper. —Quentin Crisp

(From the Internet)

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A nation ruled by God’s Will?

Australia remained a British territory until 1948, when the Australian Citizenship Act converted the Aussie from British subject to Australian citizen. Yet, the Queen of Britain remains Australia’s head-of-state, represented in Australia by the Governor-General and State Governors.

When Prime Minister Chifley placed his nation under US suzerainty, the ownership and control of Australia’s principal enterprises and rural properties by British and other foreign interests was increased substantially by US investors.

Thus, Australia became industrialised rather suddenly without going through the normal incremental changes. That the output by the US enterprises was limited primarily to the Australian market did not delay the higher standard of living which resulted. From my time in the Balance of Payments Branch of the Bureau of Statistics, I came to realise that it is a continuing foreign capital inflow which enables the nation to survive, and for us citizens to eat as well as we do.

Donald Horne was correct when he published ‘The lucky country’ in the early 1960s. But, why not credit God’s Will as the cause of our full bellies?

Is it not God’s Will that has now brought the formerly-feared ‘yellow hordes of the North’ to Australia, with deep pockets filled with cash, to buy up all manner of our nation’s assets? As well, how is it that we are able to grow a very thirsty crop like cotton, when the river which feeds this production is seemingly drying up at its mouth?

But is it God’s Will that we should compete with poor countries everywhere which rely on their cash crops for survival? While their former colonial masters are reportedly ‘screwing’ them as buyers of these rural products, do we need to compete with these poverty-stricken growers in producing tropical fruits? Are we capable of producing industrial goods for export, as Sweden does?

Ironically, Australia is reportedly also being ‘screwed’ by powerful foreign interests through their taxation arrangements; we are lethargic in capturing what is our due. Then there is the feat (enabled by concessions in our taxation regime?) which results in the taxable incomes of major enterprises operating in Australia to be a small fraction of their total incomes. As well, as the big-end-of-town political party seeks to have the company tax rate reduced, reportedly some companies pay no tax, others pay little tax, and none of the big ones pay the maximum rate of 30%.

The underlying logic is that, in these ‘exiting times,’ all of our major corporations will rush out to ’create wealth’ by increasing employment as soon as their tax rate is reduced. In the thicket of economic theories, most of which are good at forecasting only the past, this thistle will not take root.

Where do we go from here? That depends on whether our federal parliamentary reps can be shocked into accepting the adage ‘It’s the economy, stupid’ as a war cry, rather than rely on God’s Will; and on foreigners buying up the nation.

 

 

My interview on ABC Radio

I received a surprising invitation this week from Fiona Wyllie of ABC Western Plains (based in Dubbo, NSW) to talk on air as to whether state governments or the federal government have responsibility for immigration policy; and could I also comment on the broader issues involved. She referred to my past as Director of Settlement Services, as well as all other related areas, in the then Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs.

Fiona had interviewed me, on behalf of ABC South Coast, 20 years or so ago, about my first memoir ‘Destiny Will Out: the experiences of a multicultural Malayan in White Australia.’ A scheduled 4-minute interview ended 22 minutes later.

Apart from my own settlement experiences, I had worked (as a Director) in all of the following policy and operational areas: ethnic affairs (and multiculturalism); citizenship (and national identity); refugee and humanitarian entry; and all areas of migrant settlement assistance (viz. migrant hostels – including childcare and recreation; the grant-in-aid scheme and migrant resource centres; community-assisted settlement – CRSS; and language services – translation and interpretation.

When I wrote that book, I was probably the only person in the country with direct experience of all these wonderful efforts to guide immigrants and refugees to integrate into a nation which offered equal opportunity. It was not surprising that the Department bought a copy of the book; it was, according to the senior academics who offered accolades, the first time that all of these policies had been set out and explained in a single package. As well, the policies had been interwoven into an Asian immigrant’s personal story of cross-cultural interaction.

Fiona also wanted to know why a prominent businessman had said that he would talk with a State Government about an immigration matter. Did State Governments have any responsibility for immigration approval?

My comments to Fiona were as follows:

  • Only the federal Minister for Immigration has responsibility for migrant entry to Australia
  • She would have to ask the businessman why he would approach a State Government about an immigration issue;
  • Anyone in the community could ‘make representations’ to federal immigration officials or the minister about the entry of non-residents;
  • That immigrant, refugee and humanitarian entry had, in my day, been stringently controlled. Applicants were assessed during a personal interview by immigration officials as to their ability to settle successfully in Australia.
  • I am unsure whether there is now reliance on immigration agents in the country of departure to vet an applicant’s claims; that is, whether Australian officials actually sighted an applicant.
  • With equal opportunity available to all accepted entrants, and a barrage of settlement assistance offered, settlement has been successful, resulting in a cosmopolitan nation, tolerant or accepting of cultural difference.
  • I had previously questioned the need for a multiculturalism policy, with the government telling us how to relate to one another; and the expensive, parallel, ethnic community-based settlement assistance.

I did not point out to Fiona that PM Howard and Premier Carr had been correct in replacing the emphasis on cultural diversity (and its retention) in favour of a shared citizenship; or that all entrants had to accept and adapt to Australia’s institutions (especially the law) and its social mores.

In the light of my experience and observations of immigrant integration, I counsel against broad assertions about experiencing prejudice (which relates only to words and attitudes) and discrimination (acts actually denying equal opportunity on the basis of skin colour or culture). How prevalent and generalised are these? One can be unduly sensitive.

 

Who decides on who can enter Australia?

After the invasion and occupation of terra australis (not nullius), and the indigenes had been driven out, shot or poisoned, an attempt was made to create a white enclave in the Pacific in which no white man would disdain any kind of work. But the squattocracy (which a clever writer described as behaving “as if they had begotten themselves”) sought coolies from China and Japan.

It took the ruling class some time to realise that the stress of coping with a difficult land and climate could be alleviated by utilising the cheap labour under their societal feet.

Finding themselves on a good wicket, Australia’s rulers closed the door on all coloured entrants. By the end of the 20th century, the entry door having been widened progressively, the door was fully open. Yet, sensibly, immigration officials permitted entry only after a face-to-face assessment of applicants for immigrant and refugee entry as to their ability to settle successfully (ie. integrate) into Australian society. No ‘ghettos’ were formed. Any attempt to introduce the ethno-religio-political problems of countries of origin were squashed.

The 2002 Census data showed, however, that most of the Asians in Australia were East Asians, the majority of whom had declared themselves to be Christians. Yet, I read in a recently published book that the highest-income Asian communities came from the Indian sub-continent, with the lowest from East Asia!

Soon, Australia’s immigrants ranged from the post-1948 Europeans, to post-1960s Levantines, then to Asians of all colours, to humanitarian entrants (HE) from East Asia, to immigrants and selected refugees from all over the globe. We were truly cosmopolitan.

Then came the sharia seekers, asking Australia to change its institutions to suit them. Their predecessors in Australia’s brief history included the Roman Catholics who had to have a separate education system – a right now available to any ethno-religious community. Division did commence early. It was sustained in the 1970s and 1980s by 2 faulty policies – multiculturalism policy, which involved the government telling us how to relate to one another (beware Big Brother!); and permitting, at a very high cost, a dual migrant settlement service managed according to ethnicity!

However, thanks to Australia’s equal opportunity processes (the old ‘fair-go’ ethos), and to our teachers, the Aussie children of immigrants demonstrated the cohesive pull of an open society. As my grandchildren, with their admixture of Anglo-Celt, German, Italian and Asian genes, have demonstrated, Australia is well on the way to joining the Family of Man. (Refer my books ‘The Karma of Culture’ and ‘Hidden Footprints of Unity’

Then the asylum-seeking ‘boat people’ demanded unlawful ‘back door’ entry to the country (our non-reciprocal and open-ended welfare system is known to be a great attraction). Opportunistic politicians, strategic lawyers, and well-meaning people with no understanding of the politico-economic issues, and the predictable ‘rent-a-crowd’ activists, now bang their respective drums with great vigour.

I haven’t read of anyone of these people offering accommodation, sustenance, and help with finding jobs to the asylum seekers. They expect ‘other peoples’ money to be spent by the government.

Welfare is not a ‘magic pudding.’ Surely personal charity has to be demonstrated by those claiming to be caring. We are now well on the way from ‘my entitlement,’ to ‘their entitlements,’ to ‘your responsibility! What about joining the real world, Guys! Put your hands into your own pockets; and open your doors!!

Hijacking Western democracy

Democracy is the power of equal votes for unequal minds,’ an utterance attributed to Charles the First of England in the seventeenth century, can be countered by Abraham Lincoln’s ‘No man is good enough to govern another man without that man’s consent,’ in the nineteenth century.

Thus, in time, it came to pass that, in developed Western nations, citizens became entitled to vote in near-periodic  elections, to elect those who would govern them for a specific period (but with some flexibility of duration). The votes would be cast for political parties, in the main. Hope, optimism, and opportunism by individuals and some small parties would be constrained, almost inevitably, by the evolution of 2 major, but ideologically opposed, parties.

Those qualified to vote do not vote for the individuals who are offered to represent them in each electorate. Instead, they vote for their party of choice, since their electoral candidates are chosen by the party leadership, not by electors. No duty statements citing requisite qualifications, work experience, and aptitude for the job are involved. A genius or a donkey – how could electors know? How prescient was R.W.Emerson in the nineteenth century when he said ‘Democracy becomes a government of bullies tempered by editors’?

Worse still, in most Western nations, voting is not compulsory, thus making it easier for the entrenchment of those who achieve control of the major parties.

Yet, it is this form of democracy, known as Western democracy, which is being sold, or required of, developing nations everywhere. The prime objective of this marketing effort is to replace tribal leadership of the traditional, historical, and generally durable kind with the tribal leadership of political parties. It is, of course, easier in a Western democracy to replace a political party, or a party leadership, with another; except that this would be akin to replacing Tweedledum with Tweedledee from ‘Alice through the looking glass.’

In the event, could not one honestly assert that, when voters are given the opportunity to change governments, it is effectively only on marginal issues? What might these marginal issues be? Seeking to protect the environment, feather-bedding needed foreign investors, subsidising some of the wealthy, non-specific foreign aid, some middle-class welfare, and so on?

In Australia, it is on human rights that the people are not represented by the major political parties. A national bill of rights is denied, as this would seemingly interfere with the rule-by-authority practice of certain churches. Voluntary (repeat, voluntary) euthanasia is not permitted even when the best of palliative care is seen to be clearly inadequate to counter the most severe pain in specific cases; but family pets can be ‘put down’ (that is, killed) without challenge.

The mantra evoked by opponents of voluntary euthanasia refers to ‘killing,’ the ‘slippery slope,’ and the implied mendacity of the descendants of those who might be seeking relief from a terrible existence.

It is difficult to understand why the stance of the Christian churches involved in relation to this issue, as well as the issues of birth control and abortion, is supported by a majority of politicians of all colours in Australia, when about 30 % of the Australian population denies institutional religion, and the dogma-driven religionists account for a lot less than a quarter of the nation’s population.

Clearly, the Australian federal parliament has fallen under the control of religious conservatives on both sides of the political divide. The media is, of course, careful not to draw attention to this. Thus, the political leaders of under-developed or ‘emerging nations’ will take heart in the operational exigencies of Western democracy as marketed by the leading Western nations.

As said by a William Penn in the eighteenth century, ‘Let the people think they govern, and they will be governed.’

 

(The above is a slightly modified article previously published in www.ezinearticles.com. Australians will not be free from governance by unrepresentative political parties until minority parties and individuals replace the union-controlled and big-end-of-town-influenced parties.) 

Denial of freedom for religious reasons

A minority religious community (a Christian one) has successfully denied freedom of choice in certain key areas of Australian social policy to fellow citizens not sharing their dogma. With an exaggerated emphasis on the procreative aspects of women, restrictions in these areas of social policy impinge upon all residents, irrespective of their divergent religious beliefs and associated values.

How had this minority been able to have its religious dogma-based values over-ride the clear boundary between faith and politics which should apply in a modern democratic Western nation?

Is Western democracy, as practised in Australia, the allegedly superior version of accountable government, now being sold with much vigour to non-Western cultures in Asia and the Pacific, responsible for this unrepresentative and unbalanced outcome?  Isn’t Western democracy secular, with diverse communities of believers free to practice, or not, their faith (with all or some of the associated dogma)?

What is the rationale, ethical or legal, for denying members of other Christian sects, or of other religions, or non-believers in institutional religion, or even atheists and agnostics, freedom of choice as to how they live their personal lives, and without interference in the lives of others? Who should decide, and on what criteria, that a right or practice unacceptable to a religious minority should be taboo for all citizens? What can one say about a political process which enables this inequitable outcome?

In a secular society displaying a variety of religio-cultural value systems, should not freedom of choice according to personal conscience be granted by legislation, and indeed captured by a national bill of rights?  How does a Western democracy based upon representative government permit the oppression of alternative values as recently applied in the former Soviet Empire?

(The above is a modified half of an article of mine published in www.ezinearticles.com titled ‘Denial of freedom of choice.’)

 

Freedom of choice

The durian is a tropical fruit whose extraordinary pungent odour and piquant taste have divided people into true lovers and decided haters over the centuries. Those who relish the egg yolk coloured squishy flesh swear that it is a wonderful delicacy. But there is nothing delicate about its impact. On the other side of the fence are those who are disdainful of the powerful aroma emanating from it.

Yet the fruit has not been legislatively banned. No one seems to have sought to have it declared obnoxious. This might reflect the tolerant philosophies of ancient Asian cultures. There is freedom of choice: one does not have to eat the fruit just because it is there, or because others desire it.

Now imagine this situation. In an inland town, the local Council-owned swimming pool offers, for a single month preceding the summer holidays, free entrance and lessons. The reason? Each summer, at least one child drowns in the sea about 3 hours’ drive away. Is it probable that anyone might reject this offer on the ground that their offspring might drown in the pool while taking lessons? Is it also possible that someone might deny the children the opportunity to drown-proof themselves, arguing that swimming in a pool with foreigners is not within their cultural parameters?

That is, would they reject a service, much-needed by many, on tribo-cultural grounds? Indeed, might they then argue that the free service should be disallowed because it runs counter to their traditional beliefs?

Then, there are those of a certain religious persuasion who will not accept blood transfusion; but do not deny access by fellow residents to this procedure. In a comparable manner, another religious community rejects meditation as a practice, claiming certain adverse probable outcomes; yet another community will not join the nation’s military or work for the government. Neither religious community, however, denies the right of members of other religious persuasions to meditate, fight for the nation, or work in government administration. That is, they accept freedom of choice as the right of fellow citizens, especially in an officially secular nation.

(The above is an extract from an article of mine published in http://www.ezinearticles.com. titled ’Denial of freedom of choice.’) 

A drifting democratic cosmopolitan nation

Australian politicians, aided by proud ‘ethnics,’ claim that the nation has a greater variety of ethnic communities and languages than anywhere else.  But Western democracy, as prevailing in Australia, is just a contest between 2 major political entities; electors have no say about those nominated to represent us.

We also have no idea about the competence of those granted the right to govern us. And currently, one might ask whether we are ruled by Papal ‘Bulls,’ since the leading politicians of both sides of politics seem to be Roman Catholics (in spite of people of that persuasion being no more than about 25% of the population).

The flowing are extracts from my book “Musings at Death’s Door: an ancient bicultural Asian-Australian ponders about Australian society.” Refer Ch.4 ‘On governance.’

“The term good governance cannot apply without quali­fication to Australia. We are subservient to, or controlled by, foreigners in key areas. Our regulatory agencies, whose responsibilities are to protect the public, seem somewhat tardy in taking wing against predators; their strike rate also seems very low. The stimulatory financial assistance pro­grams initiated by the federal government to counter the threatening global economic depression at the end of the first decade of the current century reportedly led to much waste and abuse; yet, the public service departments responsible for managing the programs at state and federal levels, and their ministers, came to no harm.

A shopkeeper perspective brings in more immigrant mouths than we need. There seem to be large pockets of under-employed and able-bodied unemployed who prefer to be on welfare. Pensions galore allegedly enable three genera­tions of a family to live with security, and not that frugally either. Enterprise is thus over-run by dependency. Our politi­cians play silly games in parliament. And recent prime min­isters have adopted a presidential stance: ‘My government’ or ‘the government’ has been replaced by ‘I’. The ‘lucky’ country?

However, we citizens are not simpletons. We rank poli­ticians as low as we do used-car salesmen and real-estate agents, which is probably unfair to these latter occupations. We distrust politicians as a species, although there are some wonderful exceptions. Our unspoken thoughts are how we can ‘keep the bastards honest.’ We know that we are not well governed. But … are the residents of other nations more equi­tably governed?

Recently, Australian politicians were described as ‘mono-cultural.’ The prominent players on both sides of the political fence were said to be right-wing (Roman Catholic?). They were therefore said to be quite separate from the multicul­tural and political mix of the population. They were also described as not capable of good policy directed to the long-term interests of the nation, because of their pre-occupation with politics, the politics of minor difference, not policies. In this they are aided by much of the media.

What an assessment that was. However we, the hoi polloi, are quite safe from being totally bullied. Every three years or so, the political parties suck up to us. We allow the seemingly superior bidder a turn at the wheel of government. We thank God, the planets, the fairies, or whatever is responsible for us being able to choose. Not that the differences are significant.

… … On a broader issue, as long as foreigners choose to acquire more and more of our resources and enterprises, we will eat well. Security? Our stepfather will surely protect us! Ultimately, it is that amorphous ‘fair-go’ ethos of the old Anglo-Australian which will ensure that our rulers do not rip us off. Many a political peacock has lost its feathers at short notice. So mought it be!”

Is Australia a subservient nation?

I am intrigued by the discrepancy between the indepen­dent stance of the Anglo-Australian worker (originally the bulk of the people) and the obsequiousness/arro­gance of Australian governments. Having been a tram con­ductor, worked in factories and offices, and socialised with all levels of Australian society, I say categorically that this Aussie worker is someone I respect. He is the one who will stop to help you were your car to break down on the street. He stands tall at all times, and encourages immigrants to emulate him.

Contradictorily, Australian governments are subservient, but selectively; originally it was to Mother Britain, later to stepfather USA. Yet, they will throw their weight about in the Pacific (their US-allocated bailiwick), or look askance at the newly independent nations of Asia with foreign faiths. These nations will never bend their necks again … …

What do I mean by subservience? How is it manifest?

Most of us are born into a collective. We are then shaped by that collective, the family. When released into society, we usually live within another collective or two. When we die, we join yet another collective, either below ground or prob­ably in another dimension.

Collectives normally imply a hierarchy, a pecking order of sorts. But … … does that require subservience? In reality, a form of subservience, a degree of subservience, seems ordered; that is, necessitated by the way segments of society are structured or organised. A leaderless society would be an anachronism. … …

The nation I adopted more than five decades ago is a well-fed, but somewhat anxious, polity. It is effectively a satrapy of the USA. Why should that be so? Because of a fear which percolated the national psyche right from the invasion of terra australis by Britain. The nature of this fear? Being sur­rounded by coloured people holding foreign faiths who were clearly ‘not us.’ … …

The Australian nation-to-be once hung on to the apron strings of Mother Britain until the threat by the Japanese led to the Government placing itself voluntarily under the umbrella of step-father USA.

I would therefore prefer Australia to become the next state of the USA. Why so? It is better to be a fourth or fifth cousin than to be a menial, that’s why. Were this to happen, there would arise the following benefits: the republic/mon­archy divide would be resolved to reflect the majority view of the Australian public; since about 85% of us wish to vote directly to elect our president, rather than have the govern­ment choose one for us, the US presidential election process would suit us immensely; since we are happy to fight in any war in which the US is involved, we will not have to pay for the weaponry from the US as we do now; and we will also become less welfare and less foreign capital-dependent, and more enterprising in terms of economic viability.

(The above paragraphs are extracts from Ch. 2 (On Subservience) of “Musings at Death’s Door: an ancient bicultural Asian-Australian ponders about Australian society.”) 

 

The ‘not-so-lucky’ country

‘The lucky country,’ by the consummate social commentator Donald Horne, was published in 1964, when Australia was struggling to grow out of its self-chosen superior white status. Since I had been in Australia since 1948 (except for one year), I could safely say that neither the people nor the government wanted to accept coloured people as their equals at that time. The new Asian nations, however, had an opposing view, having got rid of their never-wanted superior white rulers at last (with the assistance of Japan).

Horne coined a sardonic term which has been intentionally or ignorantly misrepresented. Penguin Books Australia offers the following commentary by another great social commentator, Hugh Mackay.

‘Australia is a lucky country, run mainly by second-rate people who share its luck.’

“The phrase ‘the lucky country’ has become part of our lexicon; it’s forever being invoked in debates about the Australian way of life, but is all too often misused by those blind to Horne’s irony.

When it was first published in 1964 The Lucky Country caused a sensation. Horne took Australian society to task for its philistinism, provincialism and dependence. The book was a wake-up call to an unimaginative nation, an indictment of a country mired in mediocrity and manacled to its past. Although it’s a study of the confident Australia of the 1960s, the book still remains illuminating and insightful decades later. The Lucky Country is valuable not only as a source of continuing truths and revealing snapshots of the past, but above all as a key to understanding the anxieties and discontents of Australian society today.”

A media release titled ‘The Lucky Country’ by the Australian Government said:

“He was thinking about things like Australia’s cultural cringe, its foreign policy and the White Australia Policy. He was, to paraphrase those words, talking about a ‘not too clever country’.

I had in mind in particular the lack of innovation in Australian manufacturing and some other forms of Australian business, banking for example. In these, as a colonial carry-over, Australia showed less enterprise than almost any other prosperous industrial society.

Australia, Horne argued, developed as a nation at a time when we could reap the benefits of technological, economic, social and political innovations that were developed in other countries. Those countries were clever: Australia was simply lucky.”

What can one say about Australia today?

I offer extracts from the Preface of my 2012 book ‘Musings at Death’s Door: an ancient bicultural Asian-Australian ponders about Australian society.’

“Today’s Australia is not the nation I entered in 1948. Then, it was (ridiculously) officially racist; today, any intended racism is likely to be subterranean (the yobbo excepted). Then, it was mono-cultural, mono-lingual, and mono-coloured, and very British (the ‘wogs’ of white Europe had not arrived yet); today, it is multi-ethnic and thereby multicultural, multi-lingual, multi-coloured …  and traditionally egalitarian.

That is, while the nation has evolved into a modern cos­mopolitan, generally integrated people, the ‘fair-go’ ethos of the ‘old’ Anglo-Australian underpins … official policies …  As a communitarian small-l liberal, metaphysical Hindu, and a card-carrying Christian, I applaud this. I believe that Australia could become a beacon for our neighbouring nations were we to deal with them with our feet on this platform.

Yet, because of the ‘Asian values’ which formed me in colo­nial British Malaya, I do not accept, as an all-embracing ethos, the individualism which underpins Western nations, especially those created by immigrants, viz. the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Their human rights record is deplorable.

These very nations seek to shove a ‘one-size-fits-all’ Western view of human rights onto those nations of interest to us. The intent of this approach is the destruction of trib­alism and communitarian values.

In the meanwhile, exaggerated and often self-nominated individual rights have led to the breakdown of family, which has traditionally been the backbone of society everywhere. Excepting those few involved in civil society (I am one of them), there is a rising tide of ‘takers.’ These are found at all levels – from foreign investors, corporate leaders and politicians, down to the many professionally work-shy welfare recipients.

Pockets of well-meaning individuals, seemingly unable or unwilling to consider seriously relevant policy issues, form glee clubs supporting the takers or those who seek to take, e.g. asylum seekers. Communal responsibility and per­sonal respect are thinning out like an outgoing tide at the beach. Since our politicians are pre-occupied with short-term politics rather than long-term policies – the current batch presenting themselves as the worst I have experienced – the community, by and large, reminds me of the movement of an empty stoppered bottle floating on rough seas.”